Forty years ago today, the second-most famous space words ever were uttered: "Houston, we have a problem."
THAT'S NOT WHAT HE ACTUALLY SAID, some people are likely screaming at this point. Yes, it was actually "Houston, we've had a problem." Deal with it.
When it comes to Apollo 13, though, many can't deal with it. The terrific movie is right up there next to Titanic when it comes to nit-picking corrections by nerdlingers with far too much knowledge and too little to do.
There are several websites devoted to pointing out movie mistakes; we've gathered the dorkiest gotchas! someone simply could not keep himself from pointing out.
From Movie goofs:
Mistake Factual error: When the LM separates from the CM just prior to re-entry, what you see in the film is an undocking, rather than a jettison....As an interesting aside, in real life the CAPCOM (I think it was Joe Kerwin) gave a go for "undocking" then corrected himself moments later using the phrase "..correction, GO for jettison...)
Dorkiness score: 7.4 on a 10-point scale. (We edited out a lengthy discussion of the difference between an undocking and a jettison.) Major props for saying "As an interesting aside" to introduce a factoid that is not by any stretch of the imagination actually interesting.
Lovell's Vette Antique License Plate Near the beginning when Jim Lovell and his wife are driving in his corvette and they stop at the stoplight, you can see the car has a Texas antique car license plate. The car shouldn't have been old enough for a antique plate at this time.
Dorkiness factor: 2.5. We actually kind of like this one, no one seeing that the license plate on the hot new car the astronaut's driving -- and the astronauts were all about driving the absolutely newest, hottest cars -- declares it to be an antique.
From the granddaddy goof site of all, imdb:
Mistake Factual error: When Lovell's daughter is complaining that the Beatles have broken up, she slams the album Let It Be into her rack. The scene takes place on the day of the explosion, April 13th, 1970. Let It Be was not released until May 9th, 1970.
Dorkiness factor: 8.1 A combination NASA/Beatles nitpicker? The mind boggles. We can only be glad the movie didn't mention who was playing second keyboard on some B-side the group did for the Vee-Jay label, or the arguments would have gone on forever.
Mistake Factual error: When Ken Mattingly is drinking from beverage cans, the cans are of a "necked" design (where the diameter of the top is less than that of the main body of the can). Necked cans were not actually produced until the 1990's.
Dorkiness factor: 0.3. We side with this fellow. If a movie can't get the beer cans right, how can we trust it when it comes to the Lunar Module's Descent Propulsion System?
The most famous anachronism in the movie is the use of NASA's "worm" logo instead of the old-school logo actually in use at the time. But then there's this:
Anachronism: After the astronauts climb out of the helicopter, flight deck crews on the USS Iwo Jima can be seen wearing safety vests with large areas of Reflexite tape. Reflexite did not start commercial sales of tape until 1973.
Dorkiness factor: 8.9. Major points awarded for a) studying the tape on safety vests during the emotional climax of the film; b) nagging about an anachronism that's only three years off; c) concerning a product no one has ever heard of.
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Factual errors: When Jim Lovell was explaining how he was able to make it back to his aircraft carrier by following the phosphorescence glow of the agitated alga. What he should have said was the bioluminance glow.
Dorkiness factor: 7.9. Get this guy a screenwriting job stat!!
And then we've got this:
Incorrectly regarded as goofs: After Gene Kranz (Ed Harris) has drawn the diagram on the blackboard, he exclaims that 45 hours is not sufficient for the spacecraft to cover the distance between the Moon and the Earth (it is actually about 90 hours/4 days). John Young (Ben Marley) explains that the batteries would die out in 16 hours (and not 45 hours as was being presumed till then) at the current rate of consumption (60 Amps; Amperes, a measure of electric current). He suggests that the consumption be brought down to 12 Amps (about a fifth of the current consumption rate) by shutting down all non-critical systems in the spacecraft. It would be fair to deduce then, that: (i) The batteries would now last 5 times longer (about 16 * 5 = 80 hours), almost enough for the spacecraft to re-enter Earth's atmosphere. (ii) The charge in the batteries was somewhere between 900 Ah and 1000 Ah (Ampere-Hour, a measure of charge in a battery); drawing 60 Amps from the battery for 16 hours would give 60 Amps * 16 hours = 960 Ah. However, when Ken Mattingly (Gary Sinise) enters the scene to simulate the re-entry procedures, John asks his team to keep an eye on the ammeter (used to measure the strength of current, and labeled AMPERES) in the simulator, such that the moving black pointer never crosses the 20 Amps notch (shown by the fixed red pointer). The 12 Amps benchmark was for the Lunar Module, giving the power requirements to get back towards Earth (at this point the Command Module was drawing zero Amps, as it was completely powered down). The 20 Amps were the power requirements for the Command Module, which were only required for the last few hours before re-entry. (The idea of reversing the umbilical flow between the two was to allow the LM power to be used to perform some of the intermediate steps for the CM start-up, since it was assumed that the LM batteries would have enough charge to do so after the prior power conservation steps taken, and to reduce the strain on the CM batteries.)
What were those Hollywood guys thinking, for crying out loud? Probably all hepped up on drugs.